A New Voice, or How I Grew to Love Music

By jwoods on October 12, 2011

Greetings PCMS patrons!

Have you ever wondered why your favorite musician chose to play a particular piece, or what secret ingredients go into forming a great quartet? Well, look no further than our blog to find the answers to these questions and more. Over the next few months, I will be interviewing many of the exciting artists we are bringing to Philadelphia this season and sharing these exclusive conversations with you.

Before I get too carried away, please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Juliet Woods, and I am the PCMS program intern for the 2011-12 Season. A student at nearby Bryn Mawr College, I am a senior majoring in Classical Studies, diligently (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) working on my thesis and, with a certain amount of trepidation, figuring out what I am going to do with the rest of my life. Three years ago I packed my bags and left the dusty tumbleweeds and cacti of my hometown, Albuquerque, New Mexico, to seek my fortune in Pennsylvania. And, despite the lack of horizons and the disconcerting number of trees you all have out here, I seem to have found a niche for myself in this wonderful city.

When I am not researching my favorite dead Greeks and Romans, I devote myself to my other passion:  music. I have played violin since I was five years old, and at some point along the way, between the tearful practice sessions and eight-hour orchestra rehearsals, I found that music was no longer just something I did; it was part of who I am.

This realization came as a bit of a shock. As a child, my parents attempted to cultivate my tastes by regularly taking me to concerts. While I’m not sure “kicking and screaming” would be the proper descriptive phrase, it was most decidedly not my favorite activity.  “Juliet, stop complaining and put on a nice outfit,” my mom would say. “You’ll thank me for this later.” More galling than the fact that they were seemingly the most uncool and cruel parents in the world was that, in the end, they were right.

No matter how reluctant I was to attend in the beginning, by the end of the performance I was invariably glad I had gone. Something about the quiet of the concert hall right before the orchestra strikes their first note. Anything can happen in that moment — there is potential, but also something like a sense of foreboding. What if, when the violinists put their bows to their strings, when the oboists puts their lips to their reeds, when the conductor’s arms descend to signal the first beat, all that comes out are terrible squeaks, shrill screeches, chaos, or worse, nothing at all? In that second, we all hold our breaths, the audience, the performers, all those separate human beings gathered there in that dark hall. And then, out of the silence comes the first beautiful harmony, sensible, ordered. A group of musicians working towards the same end.

I couldn’t have expressed this as a child, but what I instinctively knew was that there is something wonderfully ordered about this music. This is not to say that it is predictable or boring. On the contrary. From Dvorák to Mozart to Beethoven, all of my favorite composers capture a passion and energy that is raw and powerful and terrible, but they express it in a perfectly systematic way; everything they write is contained within a structured universe governed by certain laws. Now as an adult — or at least as a kid pretending to be an adult — I am still comforted by this part of the music. It doesn’t matter how unsure I am about, well practically everything. All I need to do is go to a concert, sit in that dark hall, and listen; listen to that music that reminds me that at least sometimes, the world makes sense.

I look forward to meeting you all at the concerts and hope you enjoy my contributions to the PCMS blog. Here’s to a great season ahead!